Resource usage and fonts

First, Lubuntu 20.04 is looking nice. I was able to drag the QTerminal menu item to the quick start bar as of a few days ago. A week ago, that didn’t work. I am especially pleased with another refinement, that the screen saver no longer locks the screen if you have automatic login enabled. Now, if only there was a way for a video player to hold the screen on while playing…

The big point of Lubuntu is light resource usage, correct? Couple of things I have noticed take a lot of resources: pulseaudio, and font hinting and aliasing.

I have ripped out pulseaudio from Void Linux, and audio still worked fine. Uses ALSA directly. Pulseaudio was eating up 150M of RAM when I played an old game in a DOS emulator running in Firefox. If I understand it correctly, all pulseaudio really does is make it possible to share the audio devices, so that, for instance, you can play a song, and still hear an audible notification from an email client while the song is playing. Without it, you will hear one or the other, but not both. You may also be bothered with error messages from the apps whining that they can’t access the audio device. For that, 150M is a lot to give up on an old system that only has 1G RAM.

The cost of font aliasing and hinting are only really noticeable on a very limited machine, such as my even older laptop, which has a 133MHz Pentium MMX and only 96M RAM (the max it can have). Came with Windows 98. 30 seconds to bring up Firefox 3.5. Stellarium is so incredibly slow on that computer it is unusable, taking 5 minutes just to get to the point it can accept input from the user. I know, I know, I should throw it away. However, its slowness does show that font hinting and aliasing could matter. The main menu of the window manager paints noticeably faster when aliasing and hinting are turned off. It may be that advances in graphics make that unimportant-- that old computer of course does not have SSE, and its graphics are probably on par with the old Intel embedded stuff of 20 years ago, which was notorious for being horribly slow.

Anyway, fiddling with fonts is still a mess. The OpenBox configuration (Preferences → LXQt settings → Openbox Settings → Fonts) font selection appears to be unreliable. If you change Ubuntu Medium 11 to another font, and then try to go back, you can’t get the Medium part, the closest you can get is Ubuntu 11. A totally separate interface for fonts is at Preferences → LXQt settings → Appearance → Font. That’s where the option to turn off hinting and aliasing are. Still another place is Preferences → LXQt settings → Desktop → General → Label text → Select font. Also accessed by right clicking on the desktop and choosing Desktop Preferences in the popup menu. Hovering over “Desktop” in the submenu of the main menu brings up a tooltip that says “Desktop Settings”. Well, is that “Settings” or “Preferences”? Firefox has its own font settings, in Preferences → Language and Appearance → Fonts and Colors → Advanced. QTerminal, Thunderbird, LibreOffice, and quite a few other apps have font settings of their own. That may be unavoidable, but for the system, could this not be more uniform and unified?

Not in exclusion of all else. With the advent of LXQt, we shifted priorities slightly, essentially sticking with lightweight as long as it doesn’t take away from the overall experience.

I would totally be in support of someone making a wiki documenting how to really trim down LXQt-era Lubuntu to its minimum for the purposes of supporting the oldest machines.

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